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How Much Has Your Designated Driver Had to Drink?

You’re relying on him for a ride home at the end of the night—but there’s a good chance the buddy who’s holding the keys has had a few drinks, too.

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Not lucky enough to live walking distance from your favorite watering hole? Your so-called “safe ride home” could become the most dangerous part of your night out.

A study conducted at the University of Florida found that many designated drivers still drink alcohol, and some DDs party to a level that can impair them behind the wheel.

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Researchers spent six nights observing the bar scene in a southeast Florida college town. They administered Breathalyzer tests to 1,071 people, including 165 designated drivers, between 10 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. Of the mostly male drivers, approximately 40 percent had been drinking.

What’s more, 18 percent had blood alcohol levels of 0.05 percent or higher, and 17 percent had levels between 0.02 and 0.49 percent. To put things into perspective, driving skills start to decline at 0.02 percent and impairment is more obvious at 0.05 percent, or after about two drinks for a 160-pound man, according to the researchers.

Were the young men simply being reckless? Researchers point out that many designated drivers believe they’re safe to drive as long as they don’t feel drunk. Still, says study author Adam Barry, even if you think you can hold your liquor, it’s never a good idea to get behind the wheel after drinking. Self-evaluation is tricky—especially once you’re buzzed, when you can’t accurately judge your ability to drive safely.

Bottom line: Don’t mess around with your role as the designated driver when your life, your friends’ lives, and the lives of others on the road are at stake. If you’ve had a few too many, call a cab.

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